Archive for May 2009
7:37 p.m. PT: They open it up for questions. Venture capitalist Roger McNamee offers a couple of comments. “Don’t ever do another planned maintenance in the middle of the day on a week day.”
I remember the day Roger McNamee is talking about, when Twitter posted on the homepage that there would be some ‘planned downtime’ in the middle of the day.
In datacenter operations language, ‘Planned downtime’ in the middle of the day is really unplanned downtime.
I’m not privy to what went on that day at Twitter, but my guess as an ex-datacenter guy is that there was some production issue affecting some number of users which a) would have got worse over time or b) was not yet an issue, but would have become an issue had they not taken down the site at that time.
From a PR perspective and from a tech perspective (assuming my assumption from the previous paragraph was correct), Twitter did the right thing. I can certainly appreciate a high growth site like Twitter having some growing pains (having been through that myself at multiple high traffic internet properties) and this was probably the best way to handle it.
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- Twitter wants money for tools, not ads (guardian.co.uk)
- Twitter: advertising is not the only way to generate revenue (socialmediatoday.com)
Having seen this come up a couple of times over the last couple of weeks, I felt it was worth blogging it.
Don’t give the product sales pitch when you’re pitching an early stage investor.
An investor presentation, although technically a sales presentation (you want the investor to buy equity in your company), should not be a product sales presentation.
Yes, we want to understand the product you have built or are building, but if it’s 100% about the product (or even 70% about the product), it’s hard to tell the story that will convince the VC that this is an exciting team and market opportunity, with the right product at the right time. Getting bogged down in features and functions is going to take the investor’s eye off the vision and into the weeds.
There’s plenty of time to get into the weeds once you have the investor’s interest, but not in a first meeting.
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- How to Pitch a VC (aka Startup Viagra: How to Give a VC a Hard-On) (rafer.tumblr.com)
- The Two Keys to a successful Venture Capital pitch (startups.typepad.com)
My buddy Steve Chambers has started blogging at View Yonder. Steve’s an awesome guy who I got to know pretty well while working with him at VMware. I think you’ll enjoy his take on virtualization, VMware, and fine beers :) His most recent post debates the notion that VMware products are too “expensive“.
This is a refrain I heard frequently during my time at the company – it’s good to see not much has changed since I left!
It seems pretty clear these (Salesforce.com, SuccessFactors) SaaS companies could be just as profitable as SAP if they were prepared to dial back significantly on their growth. SaaS companies spend money hand over fist because they’re engaged in a land grab. The big players like SAP are extremely slow getting to SaaS for various reasons. As long as these companies can grow like this, they should keep investing heavily in it. The likelihood an on-prem vendor will dig these customers back out again seems very low. Customers being taken this way are probably lost for good to the SAP’s of the world.
(excerpted from Smoothspan blog post)
I’ve finally come to realization that the idea of an end home/SoHO/SMB user being actively involved in backup of their data is a losing proposition.
Foundry Group just funded Cloud Engines, a company that makes a product (Pogoplug) which allows you to passively share data from your hard drive and make it available as a cloud-like service. Certainly automated backups would be a logical next step.
There are also some other guys out there (whose names are escaping me – and by all means please add them to the comments) who take a similar approach of placing a device in the network path to perform backups with bare minimum user configuration or intervention.
If the backup service/software has to prompt a user for files and directories to be backed up, it has already failed. The user will underutilize it, or won’t use it at all (sadly I’m in the latter bucket).
A device inline on the network will miss some stuff, but it’s certainly better than nothing (which is what you get with backup software which sits uninstalled/unconfigured).
I wonder if the network card makers could create a backup offload engine (BOE?) chip that would grab file related network I/O’s and replicate them into the cloud. We have TCP offload engines (TOE), and iSCSI offload chips, so why not BOE?
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Last night I spent a couple of hours going over our personal finances which included me spending some time on the American Express customer portal. Amex does a good job of letting you on their portal where you could be buying to maximize your membership rewards points. They will often tell you things like “Buy at FTD.com and earn double points” (I don’t know if FTD.com is actually a partner, I’m just using this as an example). The airlines do this as well, letting you earn points if you purchase online from certain vendors.
I think its great that Amex, the airlines, and whomever else, is giving me the chance to earn additional rewards points, but when I am going to purchase something online, I never check americanexpress.com and AA.com before buying whatever it is I am planning on buying. So I have no idea where I should be buying to get these extra points. My guess is that most other people don’t check for these promotions, either.
It would be great if somehow my purchase intent or purchase history could be used to identify opportunities to generate rewards points for these purchases. I’d happily give my purchase history to someone who could identify my regular purchasing patterns and tell me where I should be buying in order to maximize my points and minimize my cost. I don’t think it would be that hard to watch the major airlines and card companies and maintain a database of the latest offers, and let me know about the most relevant mileage earning opportunities.This was something I had hoped Mint would do for me, given that it has a slew of purchase data, although as of yet it hasn’t helped in that department (BTW, someone tell me if Mint actually does this and I’m just not using it the right way!) Incidentally, it looked like one of my credit card portals was doing some recommendations based on my purchase history, but it appeared to be a strict if/then proposition (e.g. If John bought a book on Amazon, then we’ll recommend he try Borders next time and we’ll give him a discount as incentive).
Purchase intent is a different story and probably a tougher nut to crack. Perhaps you could have a shopping search engine where users would input their relevant hotel, frequent flier, and credit card rewards programs, allowing the search engine to look for items where you’d get bonus points for purchasing. When they searched for an item, the search engine could consider price but also potential rewards points as a way to prioritize and categorize results.
Of course, that supposes that someone will want to use a specific portal to do their initial searches. I’m not sure that’s a reasonable assumption. Maybe there is a plugin approach that semantically analyzes the page on which you’re shopping (e.g. amazon.com, buy.com, etc) and visually flag items that will be bonused on purchase. For example, let’s say American Airlines has a promotion running where you’ll receive bonus miles for staying in a specific hotel, if you are on aa.com, Orbitz, Kayak, etc, the plugin could alert you of this when booking a hotel. Or, if you are on Amazon.com and you’re clearly looking to buy a toaster, the plugin could let you know that Amex will give you 2x rewards points if you buy at crateandbarrel.com, who also carries the toaster. The plugin might even do a price comparison for you so you can see if there is a price differential which might make the earning of rewards less appealing.
I think a plugin would be pretty slick, but the challenge there is to get people to actually install it in their browser. Most users don’t knowingly use plugins, so you’d need to overcome that hurdle in order to get serious adoption of the service. I don’t know – maybe you start with an asynchronous model (i.e. upload your credit card bill, and we’ll tell you where to buy next time) and use it to generate leads for the plugin.
So what’s the business model? I imagine the card companies, airlines, etc would like to make more people aware of the promotions they’re running (advertising), and the vendors would like to sell product to those same customers (lead generation).
I haven’t run the numbers to see if this could be a big business, but I know it’s something I would definitely use. Bits and pieces of this solution are out there (think Mint and Billshrink on the bill analysis side and maybe Mashlogic or AdaptiveBlue on the plugin side) but as far as I know there is nothing that connects the dots.
I’d love to hear what kinds of services or sites you use to maximize your earning of rewards points, as well as your thoughts on this business idea.
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IBM is fixing the one thing it really needed to get its head around to do well in the cloud- simple pricing models, without needing to call a third party expert to unravel them. Forget technology – the cloud is about simple pricing and billing.